When I began this parenting journey I was a completely different mother than I am today. Nine years and two more kids later I’ve learned what things to just let go and what things to cling too like your life depends on it. Yesterday we changed my youngest daughter’s convertible crib to a toddler bed and it didn’t hit me at first, but then I realized it’s the end of the baby years for good. It also made me reflect on the mother I was when I lay my first child in it, to now my third and last child and how different I am now.
Here are five ways your parenting is different with your last child.
1. No More Nervous Nelly – I was terrified to bring my first daughter home from the hospital. I had only changed a handful of diapers prior to becoming a mom and I was completely clueless about swaddling. My first daughter got the majority of my parental trial and errors. She did and always will set the bar for my other kids. All my expectations of milestones, capabilities and behavior are established with her as the baseline. It’s not fair, but she has all the burdens and privileges that come with being born first.
By the time you have your last baby you already know “what to expect when you’re expecting.” You’ve logged countless sleepless nights and can change dirty diapers with one eye open. You’ve survived potty training nightmares too gross to retell and struggled through teaching a child to read. Your last baby usually goes with the flow and learns so much from his or her siblings. My youngest reaps the benefits of all my experience.
2. Birthdays and Milestones Are Sad – You’re happy to celebrate the birth of your last baby, but every time you sing the birthday song you know it’s the last time you’ll have a one-year-old, two-year-old, etc. I’m definitely a more nostalgic mom with my last child than I was with my first.
Moving my first child into a big girl bed wasn’t as big of a deal because I was pregnant with my second child and the crib wasn’t going away, just being handed down. Now when the crib is turned into the toddler bed, I know we’re one step closer to saying goodbye forever.
3. Five Second Rule Rules– When Hannah was a baby I was cleaning the carpet, left the bottle of cleaner for one second and the next thing I knew she had the nozzle in her mouth. She didn’t actually spray it thank God! But within seconds I was on the phone with poison control who assured me she’d be fine.
When my son was two he bit into a slug, yup you read that right. My first thought no joke was, “at least it’s organic. I don’t need to call poison control.”
A few weeks ago I gave Sydney a package of fruit snacks in the store to keep her happy and before I knew it she dropped one, picked it up and ate it. I didn’t even have time to worry about it. The mentality with your last is like, “Well, all the other kids survived the five second rule.”
You know it’s gross, but you don’t freak out. At least for me, I knew there were far worse things they could put in their mouths than a fruit snack dropped on the floor for five seconds.
4. Beginning To Completion – When I had my first daughter everything felt like a new beginning. I had the whole of my parenting years stretched out in front of me. Hannah made me fall in love with motherhood. I had no idea just how large my capacity for love was until she showed me.
I credit Jayden with showing me that a mother’s love is multiplied, not divided with each child you have. Sydney brings an entirely different feeling to my parenting – one of completion.
For years I said that Jayden was my last child, but yet I didn’t have the feeling of completion like I have now. When Jayden was three I caught baby fever. After a year-and-a-half it became clear that another baby was the only cure and I’m still astounded by the complete 180 my husband did after over a year of shutting down the idea. One day, he said, “Okay let’s go for a third” and a month later Sydney was on the way.
She brings a balance to our family which is weird because she actually made us an odd number. But she’s the great equalizer between my two older kids. They are only two years apart, but Sydney is seven years younger than my oldest child Hannah and five years younger than Jayden. She gets all of the attention of being the baby and even though my oldest fight with each other…a…LOT, she’s the one thing they agree on. They both love to love that little girl. She creates a much needed buffer between Hannah and Jayden.
She came bounding into my bed this morning, escaping easily from her new toddler bed, and wedged her little body along with her three favorite baby dolls between me and my husband. I was tired and I thought, “Why was I so eager to transition her to the toddler bed? She slept a lot longer in the crib.” Then I thought:
“For you Sydney, I’ll let go of my warm and comfy bed and get up because yours are the last little fingers that will interlock in mine in the morning and pull me excitedly to start the day. Yours is the last little baby voice that will both sweetly and urgently bid me to come with you. And this moment is worth holding onto more than five more minutes of sleep, because your my last child and I’ve learned just what to hold onto and what to let go of by now.”
Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.